Dying Matters Awareness Week is a national campaign to break the stigma, challenge preconceptions and normalise public openness about death, dying and bereavement.

The focus of the 2021 campaign is the importance of being ‘in a good place to die.’

We would like to share a story below from Natalie Elliot who joined our Home Nursing team in December 2020. Natalie tells us how she was drawn to hospice care after supporting a close family friend through her end of life journey.

“As I was growing up I always knew I wanted to work in a caring role and look after people who had no family around them, or help those who just needed that bit of extra support.

Since joining Hospice at Home West Cumbria last December I’ve met some lovely families and have been privileged to care for their loved ones in their final days.

I’ve also had personal experiences of caring for both a family member and a very close family friend through the final stages of their life. This made me realise that end of life care is something I’m passionate about and I want to give my support to those who are nearing the end of their journey.

After my close friend Margaret was diagnosed with cancer, I helped her with anything she needed during her illness. From day-to-day jobs, shopping and housework, to attending hospital appointments and helping with her personal care.

Sadly, Margaret’s cancer was untreatable and in the last couple of weeks of her life I spent day and night at her home, alongside her son Craig. We were all together 24-hours a day and had lots of deep conversations about Margaret’s early life, remembering the days when her family were growing up, and all the fantastic nights out we had shared together. She always liked a good night out in the club with her friends and there was always a corner full of them, her favourite line was ‘Keep me a seat!’

One Saturday afternoon conversation come round to what Margaret would like when things came to the end. We talked through absolutely everything in great depth… even down to the colour of the coffin she wanted! She asked us to get brochures from the funeral directors so she could pick everything out herself and told us who she wanted to get her ready and what she wanted to wear. She also picked the songs she wanted played in church at her funeral, and told us we had to have a party and give her a good send off.

The bond we all made in the final weeks will remain forever. I became really close friends with Craig’s wife Sharon, and we feel like we’ve gained an additional family.

While I have been working for Hospice at Home West Cumbria I’ve discussed my wishes with my family and have asked them what they would like put in place in their final days. I understand it’s not something a lot of people like to think or talk about, but it is so important and precious to be able to give them the end of life and final send-off they would like. I hope that more families I meet along the way are able to honour their loved ones and talk to them about what matters to them at the end of their journey.”

Thank you to Natalie for sharing her experience to help us highlight the importance of talking to people about our final plans and wishes.

Hospice at Home West Cumbria can provide emotional support to patients, families and carers living with a palliative or life limiting illness. Bereavement support is also available through one-to-one and group therapy sessions. We can also signpost to other organisations that offer help. For more information please email info@hhwc.org.uk